Between independence and subordination

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Self-employment, self-entrepreneurship and the fallacy of entrepreneurship

At the end of the 1990s and at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, new perspectives of the world of work emerged in the relations of neoliberal policies of “modern” society. The mutations of work and its adaptations impelled the working class to enter into the new dynamics of subordination and exploitation of precarious work relations. With the persistence of crises, capital needs to reorganize its control practices in different ways.

In this case, a magic word appears that imposes a new perception of reality on working subjects, removing the concept of worker, which becomes something heavy and harmful in the eyes of society, creating a new subject, called entrepreneur. This new figure is responsible for itself, with the motto “if you want it, you can do it”. With that, many of the obligations between boss and job are removed, recreating a subject with possibilities to supply the new facets of the labor market.

The new reality obliges the subject to be his own “boss”, making work relations precarious and generating a new morphology of the magnitude of capital. Therefore, capitalist society adapts to the interests of liberal corporations, transforming workers into chameleons, because they enter a subjectivity of perceptions that hide reality. Exploitation becomes veiled in the face of the dictates of capital. The changes in labor rules corroborate to accelerate the ills of societies subordinated to capital.

Entrepreneurship is characterized with an ideological element, given that it encourages the worker to think that it is okay to be his own boss and earn money, as this takes away from the poor condition of being an employee. Currently, new social practices instigate a range of the population to undertake, as if it were something advantageous for the subject. In this regard, the current model forges an illusion of prosperity and well-being in the working subject (who is experiencing a dilemma of entering and leaving formal and informal employment). However, to be an entrepreneur, you need money. The unemployed worker lives in misery, what remains is the capture of his subjectivity to deceive social conditions and alienate him from the harsh reality. As observed by Campos and Soeiro (2016),

“[…] this is what is happening with this narrative. It appears as a generous and evident idea in the face of the generalized employment crisis. But it proposes a world of free people and happy micro-entrepreneurs in everything that contrasts with the reality that surrounds us”. (CAMPOS; SOEIRO, 2016, p. 10).

Capitalist society is plunged into a deep crisis in the various social spheres, with an economy increasingly destroyed by impoverishment and new forms of servitude at work (CAMPOS; SOEIRO, 2016). Sociologists maintain that the ideal of entrepreneurship presents itself as the way out of the employment crisis, however, they emphasize that it is a way out that accentuates the neoliberal logic rooted in the origin of the problem of class society, as a fallacy in the molds of the classical liberalism plus the current model of neoliberalism repackaged in “individual freedom and autonomy”. For theorists, the practices of the new model of labor relations, in the guise of entrepreneurship, have an increasingly evident political effect: to make everyone feel solely responsible for their situation (CAMPOS; SOEIRO, 2016).

The market relationship is an individualized relationship, because when the workforce runs out, the problem is the worker, and he has no resources to survive. In this way, individualization reigns, and society is no longer concerned with that. The responsibility rests with the individual, in a society that is permeated by profit. The human being becomes merely a commodity to satisfy capital. This is the logic of XNUMXst century entrepreneurship. The State washes its hands and imposes on the subject the responsibility for his survival in the face of the ills generated by capital.

In times of crisis, people lose their jobs and become unemployed. Those who lose their jobs in the low “crisis” period, in general, are not re-employed in the high period or in the stabilization of the economy. Thus, Antunes (2009) points out that this mass of unemployed people forms a vast reservoir of people who remain on the margins of market relations, and, as they become marginalized from market relations, they no longer have a place in society, which is dominated by the market. In other words, if workers cannot see their labor power sold, they cannot survive. Therefore, the move is to become an entrepreneur and demonstrate that he is a winner, capable of overcoming the crises of day-to-day struggles and getting up, reorganizing his economic life.

This means that an entrepreneur, in the liberal capitalist logic, becomes a consumer of merchandise to later sell it, thus maintaining its turnover and oxygenating the economy of large corporations. Therefore, at the same time that a great capacity to generate wealth is produced, a constant number of workers are generated who have no place in this type of production mode. And because that is the dominant mode of production, they will have no way of surviving.

Antunes (2009) argues:

“The new working condition is always losing more rights and social guarantees. Everything becomes precarious, without any guarantee of continuity: 'The precarious worker finds himself, moreover, on an uncertain frontier between occupation and non-occupation and also in a no less uncertain legal recognition in the face of social guarantees”. (ANTUNES, 2009, p.50).

Rosenfield Almeida (2014) point out that this category has always been imprecise, ranging from self-employed, self-employed and handyman, and extremely heterogeneous, ranging from workers in precarious insertion conditions to professionals with a high level of knowledge. In this sense, Antunes (2009) highlights the morphologies of work in the face of neoliberal logic and changes in the configurations of the meaning of work:

From then on, different forms of “lean enterprise”, “entrepreneurship”, “cooperativism”, “voluntary work”, etc., among the most different alternative forms of precarious work, proliferated. And the capitals used expressions that, in a way, were present in the social struggles of the 1960s, such as autonomy, social participation, to give them other configurations, very different, in order to incorporate elements of the labor discourse, but under a clear conception bourgeois. (ANTUNES, 2009, p.49).

Faced with the assumptions, the dictates of capital and the configurations of labor laws in the XXI, the way out for unemployment and for the remodeling of the new proletarian subject is the idealization of the entrepreneurial man. It is the emphasis of the liberal logic of society driven by capital, rooted in the classic problem of social inequalities. In this regard, Campos and Soeiro (2016) emphasize that the rhetoric is based on freedom and individual autonomy. Thus, the entrepreneurship narrative has an increasingly evident political effect: to make everyone feel solely responsible for their situation. Therefore, the system is so unfair to the worker that it “introjects” guilt or a duty of moral obligation in his social condition. In this sense, the new entrepreneurship contributes to forging new workers who are precarious and submissive to the great interests of hegemonic capital.

Campos and Soeiro (2016) note that this perverse logic highlights greater autonomy, an overvaluation of the individual, an apology for creativity and expression, a growing desire to build one's own identity and to reflect on one's own actions, in addition to deregulation and commodification of economic and social relations. Therefore, the provision of means of life for human beings becomes dependent on the market mechanism, subjecting the very reproduction of the social fabric to the reproduction of capital.

The logic of the economic system is more rooted in its own rootless economy. Furthermore, the economic elites reveal themselves capable of directly conditioning and even occupying political institutions, such as 'manufacturing consent' (ideal of an individualist/consumer man). The economic system, according to Cangiani (2012), is self-reflexive, capable of reorganizing its bases to reshape society to its interests, preserving control and succeeding in subordinating individuals. From the perspective of Dardot and Laval (2016), we live in a society of small entrepreneurs, of which none is able to exercise exclusive and arbitrary power over the market, and a democracy of consumers who daily exercise their individual power to choice. In this circumstance of the liberal logic of managing the world of work, the authors observe, business rationalization should make the bureaucrat more of an entrepreneur, subject to the logic of competition, making the State bow to market standards. In this sense, Colbari (2007) emphasizes that the traditional conception of the entrepreneur sediments a romantic and mythologized image of an individual with exceptional qualities and skills that foster the growth and development of society. For the author, the re-signification of the notion of entrepreneurship is confused with the strategies of affirming its status as a legitimate alternative to formal employment.

Flexibility – associated with the unbundling, outsourcing and quartering of the world of work – is forging a new subject of the XNUMXst century, a precarious worker in the most diverse forms of his social relations. The myth of the entrepreneur in modern society in the middle of the XNUMXst century conceals a process of exploitation and subordination of the working subject, who sells his workforce to survive in the face of the ills of capitalist society. The new forms of labor market relations dehumanize the human being, making him a consumer commodity for capital. In this sense, entrepreneurship is a bourgeois fallacy to deceive labor relations in the face of the growing crises of capital and neoliberal society. The new model incorporates in the worker a trailblazer soul, or, better said, a bourgeois soul, however, the tools that the subjects will have to fight in the class society revolve around their strength, but without the necessary means to aggregate forces and break with the inequality of the so-called modern society.

* André Luiz de Souza is a doctoral candidate in sociology at UFRGS.



ANTUNES R. Work, its new morphology and the era of structural precariousness. In: Theomai Magazine/Theomai Journal Online, no. 19, p. 47-57, Sept. 2009.Available at:

CAMPOS, A.; SOEIRO, J. The Entrepreneurship Fallacy. Lisbon: Bertrand Editora, 2016.

COLBARI, A. de L. The rhetoric of entrepreneurship and education for work in Brazilian society. SINAIS – Electronic Journal – Social Sciences, Vitória, n. 1, v.1, p. 75-11, Apr. 2007. Available at:

DARDOT, P.; LAVAL, C. The new reason of the world: essay on neoliberal society. São Paulo: Editora Boitempo, 2016.

ROSENFIELD, CL; DE ALMEIDA, ML Contractualization of work relations: shuffling canonical concepts of the sociology of work. JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES – POLITICS & LABOR, v. 2, no. 41, p. 249-276, Oct. 2014. Available at:


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